Saturday 31 December 2016

Ending 2016 with the Rapha 500

It was back in March that I lost my dad, having lost my mum less than a year before. Subsequently the Christmas period has been hard at times and there has been much reflection on the memories of years gone by - it being the first Christmas without both my parents. Many are saying that they are glad to see the back of 2016. I don't really subscribe to that view but 2016 has been a difficult one for yours truly and I look forward to 2017.

I have had some time off work over the Christmas period and this coincided with the arrival of a new mountain bike that is very different to the bicycles I own already. I have taken to it with more than a little enthusiasm and have enjoyed being able to tackle routes not considered previously. Perhaps having this new toy and wanting to keep myself occupied over Christmas I decided to have a go at the 'Rapha 500.'

The 'Rapha 500' was a challenge the clothing company of the same name made to customers back in 2010 to cycle 500km on the eight days between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. I have not participated in this during previous years but with a new bicycle and new possibilities wanted to this year.

Grand Union Canal

Lots of people have taken up the challenge but the weather has not been wonderful during the past few days with fog and ice on the road. More than a few have come off their bikes. My plan was a rather simple one. I would use my mountain bike as much as possible on surfaces that were best suited to its ample attributes  - off road.

Off-road easy on a mountain bike
In addition as I am an early riser, I wanted to be out and return home having done the necessary miles at the point where Mrs Orange and the Orangettes would be just about ready to venture out somewhere. This way I would not inconvenience them and would be able to have the rest off the day as normal.

Setting off each morning I only took the bare essentials. This consisted of:
  • 1 x inner tube
  • 2 x CO2 bottles
  • 1 x CO2 inflator
  • Small high pressure pump (with duct tape wrapped around)
  • Tyre levers
  • Emergency tyre boot
  • Pack of pre-glued patches
  • Light rain jacket
  • 1 x multitool 
  • Small amount of cash
  • Credit card
  • iPhone
  • Front/rear lights
  • Garmin Edge 820
I didn't bother with a water bottle as I knew that I would be able to find somewhere I could buy a cup of tea. A camera was also left at home as I had the iPhone if I wanted to take a picture.

One early Christmas present was a 'Quad Lock' case and bicycle mount for my iPhone. This has been brilliant and allowed me to see where I am on a map at all times, get turn by turn directions - if required - via google maps and work hand in hand with the navigational features of my Garmin 820. As a result I have actually been able to cycle into uncharted territory with greater confidence and without getting hopelessly lost. 

Knowing that I take too many photos when cycling as stated I decided not to take a separate camera. If I did I would be a great deal slower, so I rationed myself to a few photos using my iPhone. As the protective cover was on the phone most of the time to keep it from being splashed with mud - something you have to get used to when cycling off-road on a mountain bike - I couldn't be bothered to faff around with it.

Almost all of my Rapha 500 km's were off-road and on the Grand Union Canal. My longest journey was from my home to Little Venice, then back out as far as Berkhamsted and finally home. This was a particular favourite which I completed twice.

When passing Ladbrook Grove I passed Kensal Green Cemetery - where both of my parents had their funeral service.  As always when cycling alone ones mind races with all sorts of things. I could imagine my dads wheezing laugh if he had of been told of me cycling on a mountain bicycle along the Grand Union Canal for a small piece of cloth - you may or may not get in the post - to sew onto a cycling jersey or similar.

Kensal Green Cemetery

For a few days I cycled each morning to Richmond Park and back. While there I took advantage of its off-road Tamsin Trail. I found this very agreeable and will definitely return in the near future. The trail is just over 7 miles and completing a few circuits - if early enough to avoid dog walkers, joggers and the walking dead who can't quite make their mind up what they are doing - doesn't take that long.

Tamsin Trail
Another route I hope to do again in better weather was cycling to and from Windsor. I really enjoyed this and it also provided the best halfway stop in terms of shops selling tea, bacon rolls and cake!

When trying to make up the miles of an evening, I would complete circuits of my local area. I mainly did this on my Condor road bike but also enlisted my trusty P-type Brompton. In all I was able to cycle around 80 km a day. This combined with me getting lost and therefore adding a few additional miles in order to get back on track resulted in me completing the challenge with a day to spare.

My new mountain bike has clocked up the most miles towards reaching the Rapha 500 challenge and I have enjoyed getting to know the new addition to the stable. It is a brilliant bike and I can see us becoming close friends. My Condor road bike is just lovely on the open road, swiftly gliding over any distance and my Whyte is I suppose the the off-road equivalent. I also love the fact that I have done most of the miles on a mountain bike - not perhaps the image that comes to mind when thinking of Rapha!

I have enjoyed the challenge of doing the Rapha 500 on many levels and sure that in better weather my off-road adventures along the Grand Union Canal and Thames will be tweaked and added to. I think that this time next year I would also like to give this another go. My cycling has obviously wained in 2016 and I hope that 2017 will see me back on track somewhat.

Some of you out there have already entered into 2017 but I wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year. Keep cycling and make sure that you go on adventures of your own.


  1. Happy New Year and thank you for all your blogging to date - it is read and enjoyed. You inspired me to buy a Brommie earlier this year (a second hand M6R in BRG). I find that I cycle short errands much more now that my bicycle is folded next to the back door, rather than taking the car. I wouldn't have done this with my old tourer. We also find our Brommies handy because we can put them in the boot with the kids' bikes.

    I hope 2017 brings you and your family health and happiness.

  2. Pleased to see your enthusiasm for cycling is being rekindled even if it involves less use of the Orange Brampton's and I trust you receive the elusive Rapha Roundel.

    Compliments of the season and best wishes for 2017


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